The word of the Lord came to me: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:
“I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,” declares the Lord.
Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. This is what the Lord says:
“What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophet prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.
“Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods: (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.
Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:1-13
I know I tend to include long passages of scripture with my articles, but the alternative is to cherry-pick a pertinent excerpt and then summarize the parts I left out. This is not always feasible. Sometimes the Word must speak for itself. Such is the case today with Jeremiah 2.
This passage has always weighed heavy with me. It calls the people of God to remembrance of a state of communion that so obviously pleased the Lord and then proceeds to such a strong indictment. I am always compelled to soberly reflect on my own state of relationship and sometimes to quake for the state of the Church.
It begins with the remembrance: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert…” This describes a relationship of perfect love and trust. I see a bride so in love and confidence with her husband that where ever He is is home and is safe and is perfect. Even in the desert, the unsown place of drought and darkness, all that mattered was that He was there, leading the way. He was enough. He led her through the barren wilderness, keeping her safe and providing for her until she was led into a fertile place to settle.
But then the relationship changed. He was not her all in all anymore. In the fertile place, with need and danger seemingly far away, she grew comfortable and forgetful. Where once His Presence was the single most important need in her whole world, now she no longer even asks where He is. She no longer asks because she prefers a less demanding lover who speaks more pleasant words. God’s summary of the situation is “…my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.” I have always been moved by the inclusion of the capitalization of ‘Glory’ in the NIV. To me, it emphasizes that their Glory is a Person with whom they had relationship, only to abandon Him for a cheap imitation.
At this point, God brings the indictment. He declares, “Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” I am confident that the unstained members of Creation who dwell in heaven and observe the goings on here on earth do not need to be commanded to be appalled and horrified. I’m sure their sinless eyes see clearly the devastating choice God’s people made and continue to make. It makes no sense. It is inconceivable. How could anyone who had once beheld Glory be turned away to inanimate idols? How could anyone who had once drunk from the spring of living water reject it in favor of stagnant tanks that leak and grow fetid? And yet they did and yet we do. Can there be anything more appalling?
Every time I read Jeremiah 2, I weep for I am a digger of cisterns. There is no explanation for it other than that I am a sinner. How desperately I need my Savior! I am one who will exchange my Glory for a worthless idol and I don’t understand why. I know it happens when I want to exert an illusion of control. But the cisterns I dig really do fail to hold water and the idols I reach out to truly are worthless. But I return to the Lord for my salvation. I ask again, “Where is the Lord?” because it is the only sane thing to do under the circumstances. And do you know what happens when I do? He forgives me and receives me! How is that possible?! I participate in that which horrifies heaven and He pardons and cleanses and restores me. That must be even more amazing to the heavenly onlookers than anything else.
If this passage speaks to and accuses you, I encourage you to do the same. Abandon your cistern and run back to the Spring. Drop the idol and seek Glory. He promises to be found by the earnest ones who seek Him.